As the all-campus elections approach, the University of Minnesota’s graduate and professional student government candidates prepare to campaign for leadership positions during the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Professional Student Government has two candidates between president and vice president, and the Council of Graduate Students also has two candidates running for president, with the same running mate for vice president.
Eman Qureshi, candidate for PSG president
Candidate Eman Qureshi is currently PSG’s secretary of finance and the vice president of the University’s Law Council. After being involved in PSG for one year, she said she feels passionate about the professional student issues and meeting new students.
She said she hopes to advocate for additional gender-neutral bathrooms and for more food options for those with dietary restrictions. If elected, she would also push for increasing the number of social events for professional students, make physical wellness grants more accessible and seek connections for students in different colleges.
“I wanted to take what I learned through, not only through PSG, but also student government on Law Council and use it,” Qureshi said. “I would say the deciding thing [that pushed me to run] was just thinking about how much fun I think I had being able to advocate for students.”
She said she feels passionate about listening to the concerns and issues of professional students in order to determine solutions.
Sarani Rangarajan, candidate for PSG president
Sarani Rangarajan’s experience includes serving as secretary of the Law Council and real-life experiences of bringing together people to fight for the same cause. One of her priorities focuses on preparing for the aftermath of COVID-19, such as the work to recover academics and career paths and rebuilding the community.
“I think there’s a lot of very passionate people out there, and what I would like to do is to enable them to have a platform and capability to actually execute those changes,” Rangarajan said. “And I think it’s very valuable to have somebody who can kind of take that step back and act as a mediator.”
Rangarajan says the PSG platform is wide-reaching and plans to advocate for the particular needs of professional students given their diverse perspectives.
Brett Heischmidt, candidate for COGS president
Two years ago, Brett Heischmidt began his role as chair for the mental health committee in COGS and pursued more involvement due to an interest in playing a leading role in student government. Since then, he’s worked on several initiatives to push forward advocacy issues, which include reducing mental health stigma and preventing sexual misconduct.
“I've been involved for a while now ... I'm starting to see the bigger picture, both in terms of the [COGS] executive committee and the University,” Heischmidt said. “Serving as president, I can use this vantage-point to make a change for graduate students.”
Heischmidt is currently the director of finance for COGS and a physics Ph.D. candidate.
Madison Anderson, candidate for COGS vice president
Madison Anderson is the only candidate for COGS vice president and running mate for the candidates running for president. She began her involvement with COGS in 2018-2019, serving as a division representative. Her biggest reason for running is to continue the advocacy work started this year and pursue new projects on food security.
“I’ve been passionate trying to serve my people — as an American Indian, I’m very collectivist. So I think just knowing something that I'm trying to push forward for the best of our graduate students for the University of Minnesota ... just gives me good feelings inside,” Anderson said.
As a third-year doctoral student focusing on epidemiology, Anderson said she is passionate about health equity and has experience in improving the lives of communities.
Scott Petty, candidate for COGS president
Scott Petty has served as COGS' speaker of the General Assembly for the last two years and is a Ph.D. student in applied economics. He said he worked to allocate University funding to COGS' travel grant program. If elected, he said he hopes to turn the program into a source of consistent institutional support for graduate students.
“Firstly, graduate and professional students are roughly [31%] of the student body at this massive University,” Petty wrote in an email. ”I would like for this fact to be more consciously recognized by administrators so that the culture of policy making and design shifts to a more inclusive style.”
Petty said his role as COGS speaker currently requires him to devote time and energy to respond to COVID-19, but he emphasized putting in the best effort to support people during these stressful times.
Update: This story has been changed as Eman Qureshi is no longer running for PSG VP.